Local soup kitchen to serve Thanksgiving dinner

By Evan Pajer - Staff Writer
East Hartford - posted Fri., Nov. 9, 2012
A volunteer at the Friendship Center stirs a pot of soup. Photos by Evan Pajer.
A volunteer at the Friendship Center stirs a pot of soup. Photos by Evan Pajer.

As East Hartford experienced its first snowfall on the afternoon of Nov. 7, residents who drove by St. John's Church might have thought it was closed for the day - the lights had already been turned off, and the doors locked. For a group of volunteers working at the Friendship Center soup kitchen in the church's basement, however, the day was just beginning. Two of the workers stirred massive bowls filled with macaroni and cheese, while another checked on a cauldron of soup heating on an industrial stove. Pamela Douglas, a supervisor at the Friendship Center, said that anywhere from 15 to 60 people were expected to arrive that night, looking for a hot meal.

While many of East Hartford's food pantries will experience increased demand for food during the winter months, Douglas said that demand at the Friendship Center is high year-round, especially at the end of each month, when money becomes tight. The center itself is primarily operated by volunteers, with only two permanent employees to fulfill a state requirement that classifies the center as a restaurant. Much of the center's food comes from Foodshare, a Hartford-area charity that collects donated food and ships it to soup kitchens and food pantries throughout central Connecticut. The Friendship Center provides dinners on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, as well as an afternoon meal on Saturday.

Douglas said that the center does hold a Thanksgiving dinner for its clients, but does not usually hold a Christmas dinner unless the holiday happens to fall on one of the days the center is open.

Bill Knose, a member of the advisory board for East Hartford Interfaith Ministries, which runs the Friendship Center, said the St. John's location is critical for the center to be able to provide the level of service necessary for it to be effective. Knose said that many of the residents who come for dinner live near Main Street, and although some have access to cars, many come on foot. St. John's is also near a CT Transit bus stop.

Knose said that although the Friendship Center does take donations of food, they prefer monetary donations to allow them to purchase more food from Foodshare. Donations can be dropped off at the basement of St. John's Church, which is located at 12 Rector St., on the corner of Burnside Avenue and Main Street in East Hartford.


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